Hawick Community Council ‘still needs to discuss’ £3m Pines Burn fund

The Harlow Estate near Bonchester Bridge where the 12-turbine Pines Burn wind farm will be built.
The Harlow Estate near Bonchester Bridge where the 12-turbine Pines Burn wind farm will be built.

The potential beneficiaries of a £3m wind farm fund remain in limbo after Hawick Community Council turned its back on a deal agreed last year.

A verbal agreement had been reached between the seven community councils in Teviot and Liddesdale over how they would divide a community benefit fund being set up by Pines Burn developer Energiekontor after approval was given for the 12-turbine wind farm near Bonchester Bridge.

That fund, believed to be worth up to £120,000 annually for the next 25 years, was to be split equally between the community councils, with Hobkirk set to get a double share because of its proximity to the development.

Newcastleton, Upper Liddesdale and Hermitage, Southdean, Hobkirk, Upper Teviotdale and Borthwick Water and Denholm’s community councils all signed the deal, with Hawick’s due to put pen to paper early this year following a by-election called after its membership fell below the minimum required.

However, some members of the new-look Hawick council said at its meeting last month that they want to change the way the fund is distributed so that it is based on population, which, with its population of 14,800, would see Hawick get three-quarters of the cash.

That’s a change of heart its rural counterparts insist should not be allowed to happen, and a month on, it seems no progress has been made.

Updating members at Hawick Community Council’s April meeting, held in the town hall on Monday, chairwoman Gillian Morgan said there is still a lot to discuss, though that’s a claim disputed by some of her colleagues.

Mrs Morgan said: “Members of Hawick Community Council are currently considering the issues of the community benefit fund.

“We will be arranging to meet with the other community councils involved in the near future.”

However, some long-standing members urged Mrs Morgan and new joint vice-chairman Graham Marshall to honour the original agreement.

French Wight said: “Does this mean you can look back at any decision we have made and change it?

“As far as Pines Burn is concerned, this community council made a decision in December, and I think that decision should stand.

“I do not see what the debate is. We agreed that decision in December, and it should not be changed.”

Duncan Taylor said there is nothing further to discuss.

“It’s a point of principle,” he said. “Either we agree that as a community council we get X amount of cash or it should be divvied up by population.

“I think it should be done on community council, and I do not think I’m going to change my mind if we discuss it further. That was the view of this community council.

“I do not see the point of discussing it any further because it is a point of principle, not a case of getting more information.

“Yes, we can discuss how to spend the money because we have not discussed that, but the mechanism of dividing it up has been agreed.”

Agreeing with Mr Wight and Mr Taylor, Wilson George said it should go to a vote, but that request went unheeded, with Mrs Morgan deciding to move the meeting on as “no specific question had been asked”.